Commentary: An Open Letter to Presidential Candidates on Foreign Policy

Jun 10, 2011

Murray, KY – From now until Election Day in November, 2012, the American people will be tuned in to fundraisers, conventions, debates and dialogues with political leaders vying to be president of the United States. Commentator and foreign policy analyst Dr. Brian Clardy says he'll be listening to serious answers to his questions regarding the future of American foreign policy in this open letter to the candidates.

Welcome to the campaign trail.

From now until that glorious Tuesday in November, you will have the time of your lives. And we will be first hand witnesses to the guts and the glory, the fear and the loathing, the tears and the triumph that makes following presidential politics fun and exciting. More to the point, eager activists and political benchwarmers will be gearing up for fundraisers, the quadrennial conventions, and the blow by blow accounts of who is in, who is out, who is up, and who is down.

Personally, I live for this stuff.

As President, what how will your administration conduct and oversee direction of American foreign policy? Tell us candidly how you will address the Middle East Peace Process, the future of the Trans Atlantic Alliance, the crucible of China, debt relief for the developing world, and the danger of nuclear arms proliferation? As Americans send their sons and daughters into harm's way, we will need a clear answer from you as you trod the snows of Iowa and New Hampshire.

For example, Governor Romney , you have been highly critical of President Obama's speech on the Middle East peace process, specifically the suggestion that Israel should return to the pre 1967 borders by withdrawing from the Golan Heights, East Jerusalem, and the West Bank.

Governor Romney, you should keep in mind that the 1967 Six Day War as a very important game changer. Please remember the UN Security Council Resolution# 242 called for Israel's withdrawal from the territories that it seized. And that when Israel and Egypt signed the Camp David Accords, that Israeli ceded the Sinai Peninsula in exchange for recognition and security. President Carter made this the centerpiece of his re-election bid in 1980, and while he lost his bid for re-election, the Israeli-Egyptian arrangement has held firm.

So far, we have not heard you, Congresswoman Michelle Bachman, stress the efficacy of establishing a firm Washington-Moscow relationship this as a center piece of your foreign policy. How would you relate to the Russians to implement the letter and spirit of the START treaty?

It is essential, Congresswoman Bachman, that you think long and hard about the current status of US/Russian relations, and how Washington and Moscow cooperated to some varying success. During his campaign for President in 1992, Governor Bill Clinton, promoted improved ties with Moscow with the full recognition that the Cold War was over!!! The historical East-West level of brinksmanship of the 1950s and 60s simply doesn't apply to early Twenty-First Century realities.

Governor Sarah Palin, how will you candidly and forthrightly address your stand on Sino American relations in a manner that would convey to voters and to Beijing that your serious about charting a new course in U.S.-Asia Pacific foreign policy.

Here again, it would behoove you, Governor Palin to step back into an analysis of why President Richard Nixon was so forthright in touting this as a major foreign policy accomplishment in the 1972 elections and how this rapprochement with Beijing brought some stability to the world order.

And how would a President Rudy Giuliani set and establish policies aimed at debt reduction for the developing world? Would a President Rick Santorum work cooperatively with the United Nations to ensure that the North-Side divide would be evened out? Would a President Herman Cain continue to work with African nations to control the spread of HIV/AIDS? How would you, Congressman Ron Paul, forge a new and vibrant relationship with Latin America?

Here again, Guliani, Santorum, Cain, and Paul should examine closely what President George W. Bush touted as a major foreign policy objective in his 2004 race for re-election: that the United States had the political and economic capability to encourage free enterprise economies in the developing world, use its medical and scientific innovations to stem the spread of HIV, and that cooperative relations with our Latin American partners was vital to overall hemispheric security.

But more importantly, how will you, President Obama, defend your incursions into Libya that did not come up for a vote before Congress? During your campaigns for the U.S. Senate in 2004 and for President in 2008, Mr. President you were critical of the Bush Administration's invasion of Iraq. You said, "I don't oppose all wars, I oppose dumb wars."

How then do you set the policy parameters for the recent attacks on Libya and what are your overall goals? The removal of Gaddafi? Democracy? Is this an extension of the terror war? Is the goal to end the slaughter of innocents, with a full recognition that Bahrain also has serious human rights problems of its own? Are you not now making the same mistakes as President that you as a candidate charged the Bush Administration for implementing?

There are so many more questions that I would like to ask in this open letter to you presidential candidates, but I'll stop here as the race is in its early stages. In these perilous times, the American people are looking for serious answers and they will be turning to you to deliver them. This is especially true when it comes to the execution of American foreign policy. I look forward to seeing you on the campaign stump and in the days ahead.

Dr. Brian Clardy is an Assistant Professor of History and teaches 20th Century United States diplomatic history at Murray State University. He is also the host of Caf Jazz on Thursday nights.